Centenary of Peter Cafe Sport
Something as comforting as a gin and tonic and a knowing smile in the middle of the Atlantic. It is more than that, of course. But if you asksomeone to say the rst thing that comesinto their head when you mention Peter Café, in Horta, it isn’t hard to see how easily such a pleasant image becomes embedded. This vision becomes clearer as, like a boat ploughingthrough the ocean towards terra rma, we beginto hear the many tales of intimacy and spiritual comfort. Like the story of the origin of the name of one of the most charismatic establishments in Portugal. Peter was the nickname given, in 1943, to José Azevedo (1925-2005), son of the owner of the Café Sport, Henrique de Azevedo, by the commander of the Royal Navy’s H.M.S. Lusitania II, a way for the Briton to evoke the son he missed at home. The ship had anchored there in 1939, after having been hit by a depth bomb. The obliging boy who ran errands captivated the British crew. The name stuck and quickly spread around the island.
It was in 1918 that Henrique de Azevedo (1895-1975) opened the Café Sport, which still operates in the same building today, on Rua Tenente Valadim, moving the business established 17 years earlier by his father from the building next door. In 1901, Ernesto Lourenço S. Azevedo (1859-1931) established what could be considered the direct predecessor of the current Peter Café, when he opened, a stone’s throw from the harbour of Horta, the Azorean House, a varied enterprise, which added food and drink to the sale of traditional products of the region. Embroidery, lace, hats and wickerbaskets, feather owers and ‘broderie anglaise’were items that the family was already selling in the Bazar of Fayal Manufactures & Products, on Largo do Infante. In 1888, the products shown at the Industrial Exhibition in Lisbon were awarded a distinction. But the true cosmopolitan vocation of the shop came from its location. Horta wasa strategic port for eets crossing the NorthAtlantic, among them those of the four foreign companies that chose the island of Faial as a base for planting their undersea cables.
This international spirit had always had anin uence on the Café Sport, starting with the
name – a direct re ection of the passion forsports cultivated by Henrique Azevedo, a footballer, rower and billiards player. This attituderevealed the British in uence, as was the casewith his particular fondness for gin and tonic, a drink that would become one of the symbols of the establishment. It was thanks to English clients that the spirit came to be sold there. The development of this taste even led, years later, to the local production of tonic water, since discontinued. The British sailors were excellent at enlivening the space, drinking, smoking, playing cards and dominos and fraternising with the natives of Faial, people known for being easy to deal with and possessing a universal appeal. The Dutch joined them, from 1921, when they established a tug base to help the vessels oftheir eet in case of di culties in the oceanicimmensity.
It was the Dutch who donated the blue and black paints, used in the maintenance of their boats, which came to adorn the outside of the café. But, like the British, they were also decisive in shaping the spirit of the interior, which, from the 1950s, began to mature when the developmentof yachting gave a de nitive boost to thepopularity of Peter Café, which, since the start of the 20th century, had been the place where much of sailors’ correspondence was sent, a convenience known as poste restante. More recent is the Peter Museum, opened in 1986 by José Henrique (b.1959), son of the man who made the café famous. In this upstairs space, there is an unparalleled collection of scrimshaw art, engravings and paintings on whale teeth. This is something that can be appreciated by all, including the sailors arriving in Horta on 18 June 2018, as part of the commemorative regatta for the centenary of the Café Sport, held in partnership with the Ocean Cruising Club.